Source AP ©

Tuareg rebels claim responsibility for assault on airport in Niger

The attack on the international airport in the Sahara town of Agadez began Sunday. Residents reported hearing gunfire for several hours.

In a radio address, the commander of the Niger Movement for Justice, known by its French acronym MNJ, said his group "attacked the airport of Agadez with the goal of destroying the ... planes, which routinely fly over our position."

Aghali Alambo added the "attack is also revenge for the assassination of three people by the Nigerian army, who were arrested and executed," he added.

Abba Malam Boukar, the governor of the region, confirmed the attack, but blamed "bandits in the region." He said the attackers approached the airport in a small car, firing toward an army outpost.

"The assailants were immediately pushed back and the airport did not suffer any damage," said Boukar.

Agadez is a Saharan town inhabited mainly by traders and nomadic Tuaregs.

Though one of the poorest nations in the world, the former French colony has been largely peaceful since a 1999 coup in which military officers took over the government, but then ushered in elections later that year.